Other parts to this series
|Part 1||Part 2||Part 3|
|Part 4||Part 5||Part 6|
|Part 7||Part 8||Part 9|
On Saturday I woke up early, excited for my first bungy jump. The Nevis Bungy is the highest in all of New Zealand at 134 meters high – a whopping 8.5 seconds of free fall. I wasn’t sure if I should eat before the bungy but ultimately hunger won out by about 9:30 in the morning, so I stopped by for some coffee with bacon and eggs. I caught the tail end of the marathon and cheered along the runners (and even saw the daughter whom I had met the day previous). Around 11 AM, I headed in to get checked in for the bus to the Nevis bungy. After weighing in and double confirming my vital stats, I sat down and waited for the bus. The anticipation was building within me. Truthfully, it was a bit difficult being solo for so long. Apart from my AirBnB hosts and the occasional pub conversation, the loneliness crept in as I saw others talking with friends or family as we all waited to board the bus out to the Nevis playground. The bus ride itself was pretty subdued, after a bit of introduction and some commentary from the driver, it was pretty quiet as we enjoyed the remarkably good weather (despite the forecast calling for rain) on the way up to the Nevis playground. After about 40 minutes, we arrived atop the hill, listened to the instructions about the harnessing, then headed out to the carriage.
We talked amongst ourselves as we waited – I met a man who had come from Florida with a ski club, the same trip I had heard about the day before while waiting for the bus in Arrowtown. We struck up a conversation, passing the time as we waited for the carriage to bring us to the platform that was suspended high above the canyon. After about ten minutes, it was our turn to head out. When we arrived in the carriage, there was club music playing, setting a festive, upbeat mood. It helped put nerves at ease, helping to psych yourself up for the jump. We watched others jump out from our vantage behind the line, as well as through the small glass opening in the floor that showed the view of the canyon below. The harness equipment was put on, checked and rechecked, then Flordia man’s name was called. I was next. They explained what would happen after being checkced out, a brief countdown of “5-4-3-2-1 bungy” then to dive out ‘like Assassins Creed or a swan dive’. The moment came, and rather than fear, it was only exhilaration. 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – BUNGY – *Woosh* off I went. The rush was real – once I was fished back up, I waited and watched my cohorts do many of their jumps. We were comrades now, conquering what seemed like a massive obstacle. One by one we made our jumps, until finally we got in the carriage to be taken back to the hill to make room for more jumpers. I immediately knew I wanted to do more, so I got out the credit card and proceeded get harnessed up for the Nevis Catapult. It was exhilarating just waiting and watching everyone enjoy their time at the playground. After a short wait, it was my turn to be launched out across the canyon.
The time at the Nevis playground was exhilarating and I am glad to have taken the opportunity. When I returned to Queenstown, I was still feeling quite euphoric, so I went into the booking center and immediately got booked on the Shotover jet boat, for which the bus was leaving in only 5 minutes. It definitely capped off my afternoon of adventure. While there, I met a woman who was celebrating graduating university after studying in Australia, who was from Saudi Arabia. She had big dreams of returning to Saudi Arabia and becoming a famous photographer.
After the Shotover jetboat ride, the bus returned to Queenstown. I was really appreciating the fact that I had breakfast, because I completely skipped lunch. I resolved to go try Fergburger, a hugely popular place in Queenstown. It is a small venue that usually has a line that spills out onto the street, with crowds that I had seen as early as 10AM. The burger was decent and the price was quite good. When I finished, I wanted to make sure I got some exercise in so I went for a walk. The weather was still good, so I headed over to the gondola to go up the hill and take in the view. When I arrived, I saw the gondola price was $65 for a round trip. I hadn’t exercised all day, and my wallet was already a bit *ahem* impacted from the surprise catapult and shotover jet, so I resolved to use the Tiki Trail to walk up the hill. It was a challenging walk, with a steep initial path before switchbacks began about 40% of the way up. It certainly didn’t help I was carrying a paper bag with a couple of t-shirts and some papers from my activities earlier in the day.
While I was walking up the hill, I passed the Australian daughter who had run the marathon. We chatted briefly, I congratulated her on the marathon run, then she continued down the hill and I continued up. After about 40 minutes of climbing, I had reached the top. The view was stunning. The mostly clear sky, the sun shimmering across the lake, and a cool breeze made for a relaxing way to take in the scenery. I headed out to the viewing platform for some selfies, where I began chatting with an older Australian gentleman about our travels. After wishing each other the best, we parted ways and I headed to the Skyline restaurant for a beer where I chatted with a couple of Australian ladies who were enjoying the view. They were quite impressed with the fact I had just walked up the hill and we struck up a good hour long conversation. It was finally time for me to head back down the Tiki trail, so I grabbed my bag, headed down (which was still intense!) before grabbing the bus back to the AirBnB.
The following day, Sunday, it was time for Milford Sound. My bus was leaving Queenstown at 7 A.M., and I hadn’t realized I could get on at the Frankton interchange, so I got up early to take the bus to Queenstown…so I could board the bus to Milford Sound, which stopped in Frankton. Whoops. The bus ride out took about five and a half hours with a number of stops, which included some photo opportunities. The bus ride out was quiet until we started stopping for photos when we began to chat amongst ourselves. On the way in Fjordland National Park we passed through the Homer tunnel, a remarkable feat of engineering. It is a single lane tunnel with a decent grade. The engineers began digging it before mechanization with picks and shovels – a remarkable feat. A few years into the dig they did get machines to help with construction. When we emerged from the tunnel, we began the descent down to sea level via a winding road. Once we emerged on the other side of the tunnel, the rain clouds parted and the sun began shining through, making for some spectacular views of the natural beauty around us. At Milford Sound, we lined up waiting to board the cruise and once again struck up conversations with fellow travelers. There were two women from Australia and one woman from Los Angeles that would be my travel companions for the remainder of the day and late into the evening. The weather had turned, snow coming down on our return, and on Monday it was a day of lounging around watching and waiting to see if my flight outbound to Auckland would hold. Ultimately, we took off without issue and I bid farewell to the South Island for the time being.